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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the June 26, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
A trade union office added one person, needed to expand
in space, and moved four blocks. The four-person international area
office of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal
Employees (AFSCME) moved from 1254 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road to
1,924 square feet on Whitehorse Road. Barry Blackwell of Commercial
Property Network represented the union in this expansion.
That may not sound like an exciting tale, but the man behind this
move has quite a story. Leamon Hood, 65, started with the union in
1964 in his home city of Atlanta, Georgia, where he was the son of
a laborer and worked as a janitor in the public schools and a treatment
"Working conditions for everybody and blacks in particular were
horrendous at that time," says Hood. "I was making $48 every
two weeks. People considered to be doing much better were making $40
a week. Job descriptions were written for white people already in
the school system and black people didn’t have any chance to be a
first line supervisor."
Hood began to hear about unions from out-of-state seminary students
who had night jobs. They brought him information about the fundamental
principles of fair and equal treatment for workers.
"I was one of the initiating organizers of school custodians in
Atlantic public schools. We didn’t know professional organizers existed,"
he remembers. "The AFL-CIO gave us cards, put us in touch with
AFSCME and AFSCME allowed us to affiliate with them."
"By the mid to late ’60s I was marching, but by then I was in
New York, marching at Central Park and at the United Nations helping
to organize the union at Willowbrook State School." The union
sent him to training for how to be a staff representative and after
three years he was assigned to Memphis, Tennessee. It was two years
after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and there was
plenty of work to do in Memphis.
"Because they had a union that had been organized under a social
environment they had little or no idea about what a union was about,"
he says. "Negotiating contracts, handling grievances, and a steward
structure — all these were almost foreign to them."
Hood’s current job is to provide technical support services to councils
in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The four AFSCME councils
in New Jersey collectively have 30,000 members. The council in Trenton
on South Broad Street is primarily a lobbying group, and it also works
with the state and local government to do contract negotiations, political
and legislative lobbying, and handling grievances. Council No. 73
is in Mercerville and represents Central Jersey workers in daycare,
city and county government, park authorities, and state hospitals.
Other councils are in north and south Jersey, and an independent local
in Newark, not affiliated with any council, represents an additional
"As an international office, we also represent people in Puerto
Rico and the Panama Canal," says Hood. "In Puerto Rico, we
have 1.3 million members and affiliates of local groups.
His services include ancillary assistance and technical advice, budget
research, and leadership training. He handles political and legislative
matters, local, state, and federal laws, initiatives and issues, and
preparation for contract negotiations. Mostly he works for new local
councils, but if requested he also provides assistance for affiliate
Hood never went to college, but now he lectures on university campuses.
He is nearly ready to retire, "but I still find this job interesting."
He notes that it is hard for today’s young people to understand the
difficulties of the 1960s and 1970s. They are impatient. But then
he was just as impatient at that age. "I was ignorant enough to
believe," says Hood, "that we could have made a lot of better
changes if the old folks hadn’t been so slow."
Employees, 941 Whitehorse Avenue, Crestwood Professional Center,
Suite 23, Trenton 08610. Leamon Hood, area field services director.
609-585-0554; fax, 609-585-0253. E-mail: email@example.com.
Home page: www.afscme.org
— Barbara Fox
Center, Princeton 08543-5323. Mary Aubry, office manager. 609-520-2500;
fax, 609-520-2478. Home page: www.mercer.com
The human resource firm has changed its name from William M. Mercer
Inc. In part the change is due to adding such services as managing
client relationships, attracting and retaining employees, and executive/employee
compensation. It has about 195 people in the Carnegie Center and 4,000
employees in 40 offices worldwide. The company began in 1937 as an
employee benefits department for Marsh & McLennan, an insurance firm.
E, Cranbury Plaza, Cranbury 08512. Charles Sahyoun, president. 609-409-9790;
Founded in 1997 by five partners, this engineering and design firm
does construction, expansion, or retrofits for industrial, commercial,
and utility clients. Known as Stratus Engineering, it used to be a
division of Stratus Services Group, a staffing firm. It was sold last
spring and has changed its name.
Advance Realty Group has opened its new 930-car parking garage on
the Trenton waterfront, to be used by state employees who work at
Riverview Executive Park during the day and by those who attend Waterfront
Park at night.
Located near the intersection of Cass Street and Route 29, the garage
represents the first part of Advance’s $100 million development that
will eventually include 400,000 square feet of Class A office and
retail space, another parking garage, a waterfront restaurant, and
200 conventional multifamily housing units. Hillier is doing the redevelopment
08611. Dean Lundahl. 609-394-2842; fax, 609-392-7227. Home page:
of Sprint Print, a copying, printing, and typesetting shop in Ewing,
he was also active in municipal government in West Windsor.
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